A reserve is a piece of land
I’ve always been into nature. So in a nutshell, the romantic cliché “I like long walks along the beach” really does apply to me. Of course, walking across about three beaches for several kilometres in blistering heat in 2005 on a school bush camp was not my idea of a long walk along the beach. It was a walk along a long beach.
I like bushwalks, nature trails, hiking, and strolls through forests. I love forests, when they aren’t infested with mosquitoes. Usually they are, when there is a pond or swamp nearby. I love Cumberland forest, where James and I go often enough for me to remember how long the trails are, and it’s a lovely piece of nature in the middle of suburbia. (There are a few like this, but I sometimes never care to look.)
In primary school, when I was about eight years old, we went to a nice lagoon some distance from school, and a coach took us there. I thought I was unlucky when my foot slipped into the huge lake and my foot was uncomfortable in disgusting wetness for the rest of the afternoon, but that was before my friend Siobhan tripped and completely fell in, flat on her face. Thankfully, they had a change of clothes for her and a bathroom with a shower.
These days, whenever I see a patch of green on a map, I automatically think, “Oh, a park! Lovely”. I love parks. I think of them as nice places to sit, perhaps read a book, eat, comfortably sit, maybe not alone but with a friend, and just be somewhat close to nature, depending on the kind of park. Unfortunately, not all patches of green indicate a serene sanctuary.
A lot of places on maps are marked out as reserves, named Billy Blue Reserve, Peak Town Reserve, or what have you. Those two are just examples I invented, but you get the idea. These places are marked out with small areas of green, so naturally, I assume that at the very least, it’s a park with some grass and at least one bench to sit on.
I naïvely thought this way until last year.
Tristan and I had travelled down south to a quaint little park called Como Pleasure Grounds (yeah, I know it sounds seedy). After walking a nature trail and sitting near the lake, we went to buy lunch at a shopping mall. If I recall, it was just something like fish and chips. We didn’t want to eat inside, and decided we would find a park to sit down and eat in. I messed around with the GPS on both his phone and my phone, looking for nearby patches of green. We drove to about two places that looked like they were large park areas only to find out they were just a whole heap of bush and scrub and trees by the water.
I focused on a tiny square of green on my phone, that had a name I don’t quite remember, but it was [Name] Reserve. We drove there, and there was a bench, and there was grass, but every free piece of grass was covered in overgrown tree branches and fallen leaves. It hadn’t been cleaned up in a while.
I’m sure we tried many a place before we found a path that went down to some rocks by the water. But I eventually realised that just because there’s green marked out on a map, and just because something says Reserve, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a beautiful nature reserve like a national park. I also realised that just because something says Park, doesn’t mean it’s a nice park, and it might not even be nicely maintained.
A reserve, I realised, is just a piece of land. A reserved piece of land, reserved by the council, maybe preserved, but not what it is like in my head.
Sometimes these pretty little places have to be searched for and found.
Thumbnail photograph of Oyster Bay taken by me.